Thomas Krabacher, ASCSU Senator and Legislative Specialist (Sacramento)
The 2014 Legislative Landscape
As of June, all bills under consideration this legislative session have cleared their house of origin. In other words, both the Senate and Assembly have held floor votes on bills introduced in their respective houses; those bills approved by their house of origin have now been sent to the other house for consideration and action there. Bills may be heard in committee in the second house through the end of August, at which point all must go to the full body for a floor vote. By the end of the second week in September, all bills must be out of the legislature and on the Governor’s desk for action.
ASCSU Legislative Priorities
As a reminder, of the 29 bills reviewed by the ASCSU Fiscal & Governmental Affairs Committee, the Academic Senate adopted the following positions at its March plenary: Support: 10 bills, Oppose: three bills, and a stance of No Position/Watch on the remaining 16. Although bill language has changed in some cases through the amendment process, the ASCSU has not altered any of its positions to date.
Four of the 29 bills were singled out as of high priority to the ASCSU:
SB 850 (Block – D) California Community Colleges: baccalaureate degree pilot program
ASCSU Position: No Position/Watch
This bill would allow California community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees under certain specified conditions. Although the ASCSU chose not to oppose the bill at this time, it nonetheless had expressed concerns over a number of its provisions. (See ASCSU resolution AS-3163-14.) The bill was recently approved by the Senate and sent to the Assembly for its consideration, but in the process it has been amended to address many (but not all) of the concerns identified by the ASCSU.
SB 119 (Liu – D) Postsecondary education: state goals.
ASCSU Position: No Position/Watch
As a pre-condition for receiving General Fund support, the bill would require each of California’s three higher education segments to develop a five-year plan for meeting specified goals established as a result of 2013’s SB 195 (Liu). This bill, too, has cleared its house of origin and is waiting to be heard in the assembly.
AB 2092 (Chávez – R) Postsecondary education: common course numbering system.
ASCSU Position: Oppose
The bill originally proposed a common course-numbering system among California’s public and private higher education institutions, but was later amended to alter the bill’s intent. The new version would have required the CSU establish a four- (or for some majors, five-) year baccalaureate degree guarantee for students meeting certain indentified conditions. The ASCSU opposed the bill in both its forms, a position in line with its past opposition to similar proposals. The bill failed to clear its house of origin (held in committee) and is, thus, dead for this session.
AB 2324 (Williams – D) Trustees of the California State University: faculty member of the board.
ASCSU Position: Support
This is the highest priority bill for ASCSU in 2014. As noted in previous reports, it represents the first time the Academic Senate has taken the initiative in proposing legislation. The bill would allow the current Faculty Trustee to continue serving on the Board of Trustees after his/her term has expired until a new trustee has been appointed. At the time of this writing, the bill cleared its committee hearings in the Assembly, where it was approved in a floor vote. The bill has now gone to the Senate, where it will be taken up by the relevant Senate policy and appropriations committees. It was scheduled to be heard in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, June 11.
Campaign for Higher Ed Budget Augmentation
Since the beginning of February, the CSU has aggressively campaigned among legislators for a $95 million augmentation to the Governor’s proposed $142m CSU 2014-15 budget. The campaign has been coordinated by Karen Yelverton-Zamarripa in the CSU’s Office of Advocacy and State Relations with a goal of getting legislators to add their signatures to letters formally stating their support for the augmentation request. The effort involved a wide range of CSU stakeholders, including, CSSA, CFA, and CSUEU; although the ASCSU leadership declined to formally sign on to the campaign, members of the ASCSU participated informally. To date, 80 members of the legislature have officially signed, and two more have stated their intent to do so.
T This campaign seems to have had its effect. In late May the Assembly approved a $100m augmentation to the CSU while the Senate approved an augmentation of $95m. These proposals now go to the Conference Committee for reconciliation. The composition of the Conference Committee was announced on Thursday May 29. The members are:
Assm. Richard Bloom (D), Assm. Jeff Gorell (R), Sen. Loni Hancock (D), Sen. Ricardo Lara (D), Sen. Mark Leno (D), Sen. Jim Nielsen (R), Assm. Nancy Skinner (D), Assm. Shirley Weber (D). All, both Republicans and Democrats, have been strong supporters of higher education and many recently have been outspoken in their support of the CSU augmentation request. There is reason to feel optimistic, while nonetheless recognizing that all actions by the legislature will then go to the Governor’s Office for negotiation.
In late May, former State Senator John Vasconcellos passed away at the age of 82. A long-time California lawmaker and self-described “out of the box” thinker, Vasconcellos is probably best remembered for his 1980s initiatives promoting the importance of self-esteem. More importantly, Vasconcellos was throughout his career an ardent support of higher education and the CSU, with its commitment to access, in particular. On two occasions the ASCSU passed resolutions of commendation honoring John Vasconcellos (AS-2562-02 and AS 2659-04) and in 2002 bestowed upon him the title of Honorary Academic Senator.